Political News

Most people don't think the 'law and order' president respects the rule of law

Posted March 26, 2018 4:18 p.m. EDT

— During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly declared himself the "law and order candidate."

He used the expression four times in his acceptance address at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and called for its restoration when speaking in the immediate aftermath of last year's deadly violence in Charlottesville.

But according to a new CNN poll, conducted by SSRS, only 39% believe Trump "respects the rule of law." Nearly six in 10 say he does not.

Throughout his first 14 months in office, Trump and his Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, have pushed for stricter sentencing across the board, including for nonviolent offenders. Last week, he proposed the death penalty for some drug dealers. Sessions backed up the President, promising to pursue capital punishment for traffickers "wherever appropriate."

Americans' views of Trump on this question, like so many others, are split down partisan and racial lines. Among those who approve of his job performance, 81% said he respects the rule of law; only 7% of those who disapprove said the same.

There is also a considerable gap in the perceptions of whites and non-whites, with 45% and 27%, respectively, saying Trump values those standards.

The President, a vocal defender of police and law enforcement in general terms, has frequently criticized federal judges, the FBI, and the Justice Department-appointed special counsel currently investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The White House has repeatedly denied reports Trump is weighing whether to order Robert Mueller's firing, but the rumors persist.

Republicans in Congress, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, say the White House has offered them "assurances" the special counsel is safe. But just 33% of registered voters who described themselves as very enthusiastic about the prospect of voting in this fall's midterm elections have confidence in Trump's respect for the rule of law -- another anxious sign for GOP officers gearing up for a dogfight to preserve their majorities.

The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS March 22-25 among a random national sample of 1,014 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.